A new approach is needed to conservation if the natural environment is to have any chance to adapt to climate change and pressures of development, according to Natural England.

 

In its report, State of the Natural Environment, Natural England said there was “real danger” of wildlife being lost forever unless new ways were found to manage the landscape.

The study claims the natural environment is not as rich as it was 50 years ago, with 20% of England’s landscape showing neglect, while just 3% of grasslands remain rich in native plants.

Under threat

Helen Phillips, Natural England chief executive, said the natural environment was increasingly under threat, and steps such as improving the use of public funding for “farmers to deliver a better natural environment” were needed.

 
“If we don’t act, there’s a real danger some of our most precious wildlife will be lost forever and our lives will be poorer for it,” she added.

However, targeted action is making a difference, the report said.

“Environmentally friendly farming” had slowed the decline in farmland birds, while the condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest had “improved dramatically” in the last 10 years, it claimed.

‘Hard hitting’


In response to the study, Natural England has published a manifesto pledging to help tackle climate change and development, including better targeting of the £2.9bn it manages through land management schemes.


Sue Armstrong, RSPB head of countryside conservation, praised the report as “timely and hard hitting” and said the government must act upon it.

“The government should support Natural England’s plans and allocate enough money to put them into place,” she added.


‘Disappointing’

However the Country Land and Business Association said the manifesto was ‘disappointing’ and required a more balanced approach.

 

“They do not recognise the significant contribution many land managers have made to reverse these trends or any obligation on Natural England to work more closely with land managers in future,” William Worsley, CLA deputy president said.

 

“Natural England has also only focused on the environmental pillar of sustainable development and continues to ignore economic development and the rural community. This creates a highly unbalanced approach to sustainable development in England.”